Hawthorne Asylum, the sprawling new food cart pod near Cartopia, is a street food enthusiast’s Disneyland, with everything from vegan Egyptian to a Southern-meets-South-African. The pod officially opened this February amongst sleet and snow, but the pod is now in full gear, with several carts, plenty of covered seating, a fire pit, and steam punk metal work. Here’s what to know going in.
Its barbecue is on point
As promised, Bark City BBQ, Eater PDX’s 2018 Cart of the Year, made the move from North Portland to Southeast’s Hawthorne Asylum. The cart is still hawking the dishes that made it a star — pickled avocado, smoky-fatty brisket, no-joke ribs — but it’s getting into meatier territory at the new locale: the Bark City BBQ’s Barky Burger, a brisket burger loaded with beef and smoked cheddar, is coming soon to the cart, as well as lamb ribs and shoulder.
The brunch options are far from your usual eggs-and-bacon
In Latin cultures, Mestizaje loosely means “mixture.” At Mestizaje food cart, this this mix is gives a gracious nod to the owner’s Spanish-Portuguese grandmother in the form of Atuna Alcantra, a sandwich-style dish that is made with tuna, olive, potato, and parsley. Cart owner Seanja Pastrana-Mondragon says this dish is a great brunch option, as well as her Monte Cristo torta. Dishing out a range of plates, Mestizaje serves Pastrana-Mondragon’s diverse families’ favorite dishes.
You can find Southern-South-African food at the Asylum
All directions point to fried chicken and grits at the new food cart South, which combines the American South with South Africa. Owners Jeremy Lucas of Alabama and Siobhan Passmore of South Africa are serving up heirloom grains and grits with Mary’s Chicken and Carlton Farms Pork. Not to skip: the po’ boy on a Pearl Bakery baguette.
It’s vegan friendly, thanks to a hard-to-find Egyptian favorite
Peri Koshari’s owner Faisal Faisal is bringing a classic Egyptian dish to Southeast Portland with his popular Koshari Bowl. Well-known on the East coast, Koshari is a mix of rice, pasta, and lentils with a tomato-based sauce, chickpeas, and onion; the dish can be hard to find on Portland menus excluding a few carts like Elmasry downtown, but at Peri Koshari, it’s the cart’s namesake. The 100 percent vegan cart also serves various forms of falafel — as a “taco,” a plate, and as a sandwich. The tiny cart was originally based near Portland State University, but it made the to expand its hours and customer base.
Health-conscious eaters have some options
Meatless diners are in luck, even if Egyptian food doesn’t appeal: Daily Fuel vegan and vegetarian cart brings high-energy food to its eaters. With a background in chiropractic medicine, owner Dax McMillan assures diners that his eats are packed with high-density nutrients. McMillan says that his “Frankenstein-style” cart, created by hand with the help of McMillan’s Grimm colleague, Mark Haleston, is the first to have a reverse osmosis alkaline water system — basically super obsessively purified water.
There’s plenty of booze
With 16 ounce “power pints” of mimosas and cart-made sangria, Black Dagger is the first cart guests hit after passing through the wrought iron gates of Hawthorne Asylum. Black Dagger’s owner Scott Kinard has loaded his taps with craft beers and ciders, including Oregon brews like Migration’s Straight Outta Portland. He’s not the only entertainment coming to the pod: Kinard says that Hawthorne Asylum’s co-owner Brock Johnson is working to create a live music stage and more unique features to set this food pod apart from the rest.
There are fun things to drink for the alcohol-free, too
For an interesting craft drink that is zero-proof, the Pelmeni Pelmeni cart is now making its own kvas, the fermented non-alcoholic beverage popular throughout Eastern Europe. This gingery drink is cart-made and on-tap at Pelmeni Pelmeni, and for those unsure if they’re willing to commit to a full glass Pelmeni Pelmini gives free samples of its bread-based brew. For sustenance, this cart serves up Slavic dishes; think stuffed dumplings with fillings like chicken and cabbage and sweet vareniki filled with berries and cream.
Hawthorne Asylum is located at 1080 SE Madison Street.
Correction: This story was corrected to show that Dax McMillan is not a nutritionist.